By Arun Ag:
Accidents are always tragic. If the death is of our near and dear ones it is even more so. I am writing this over the concern over the safety of children who are pursuing their school education. This has to be one of the relevant topics which need to be discussed at the start of a new academic year. But we fail to do so and ignore this discussion which in turn creates more student casualties every year. The main reason for this is that we only know the value of what is lost when it is gone.
These are some suggestions which came to my mind as part of thinking and research on school and students safety.
Accidents of school students often occur during their commute to the school. This happens because we haven’t yet successfully ensured safety on the roads around schools. Footpaths are often in a bad condition which forces the students to walk on the road and invite trouble for themselves. The presence of stray dogs, lack of proper sign boards, speed breakers etc. are also major causal factors to student fatalities. A safe route to school audit should be conducted periodically by the school management and local governments to trace out the obstructions and challenges faced by the students. This will help in finding the safest routes to school and ensure safety for students.
School infrastructure is another major concern. Many students have died or have been injured due to poor infrastructure in the school. We should not wait to initiate construction or maintenance of the roofs until they collapse and create trouble. Also, the provision of safe drinking water is never a supplement but is a student’s right. The school authorities should always be keen about auditing the school infrastructure and amenities to create a better and safe learning environment for the students.
Safety of the school premises will avoid a lot of casualties. Many casualties have been reported due to the collapse of heavy tree branches which were failed to be removed. Lack of an environment audit can lead to waterborne diseases due to the monsoon. The school authorities should initiate necessary action for keeping the environment and students safe.
A school bus is considered as the safest travel option for students. Most of the parents tend to make sure their children go to school in a school bus so that they can be free from worries. This makes the safety of school buses an important issue to be considered. School buses should follow clear mandates including the seat-student ratio, display of emergency numbers and tracking systems which can provide the best travel experience for the students.
It is hard to believe that road safety is still not part of the mandatory syllabus in our schools. Students usually walk into trouble due to their lack of proper road safety awareness. The negligence in imparting road safety education puts the life of students at risk. Education about safety should purposefully start from lower primary itself to make sure that they observe and inculcate this culture throughout their life.
Display of emergency numbers in school will be a great benefit for the students and other staff. This will bring confidence and will also cultivate an attitude of seeking help when they face difficult situations. The numbers should be prominently displayed in the school and also should be included
in the school diary. Emergency numbers should include the contact numbers of the local police station, ambulance, children’s helpline, school principal and PTA authority.
Provision of cycle sheds would encourage the students to travel to school by cycle and also develop a good parking attitude. This will indirectly impart the need and necessity of safe parking along with the health benefits which can be achieved through cycling.
It is no longer a question as to whether or not to provide first aid to the students. Injuries can happen at any moment and delay in proper medical aid can lead that to serious issues. The provision of first aid by a specialist can reduce the chance of risks from accidents.
Crossing busy roads is one of the most difficult tasks which a person has to learn in his/her life. The death toll of road accidents is really alarming. Many of these deaths occur due to unsafe road crossing practices. Deployment of police personnel in school zones will ensure safe crossing of roads and encourage others to follow the rules.
A school safety committee should be constituted to ensure and monitor the safety practices of the school. The safety committee should include the Principal/Headmaster/Headmistress, PTA authority, staff and student representatives and ward members.
The IWALK Club, for example, which is part of the Active & Safe Route to School Program in America, is a novel initiative. Such clubs promote walking and cycling among the school going students, which in turn help them to lead a healthy lifestyle. This initiative could also be used to advocate for better road safety measures and pedestrian infrastructure. Similar clubs can be started in each school and the progress can be recorded with periodical evaluation. One staff member of the school can be appointed as the monitoring authority along with the club leader who must be a student of the school.
Safety is never ever an option but a default priority. Don’t wait to cure it. It’s better to prevent it.